ED MAP: Insights Blog

12.21.15 Higher Ed Weekly Read: Articles Worth Reviewing
By JoAnn Rollins

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

“Good” and “Successful” Teaching: Where Does the Student Enter the Picture? “F & R point out that learning, like teaching, can also be distinguished between ‘good’ and ‘successful.’ The above examples of student proficiency on the theory of evolution, the Declaration of Independence, and prime numbers demonstrate ‘successful’ learning. “Good” learning, however, requires other factors to be in place. “Good” learning occurs when the student is willing to learn and puts forth effort, the student’s family, peers, and community support learning, the student has the place, time, and resources to learn, and, finally, ‘good’ teaching. In short, ‘good’ teaching is one of four necessary components to “good” learning.”

‘The Future of Work’ at the Intersection of Learning & Technology. “The work at the intersection of learning and technology is people intensive. Teaching is not a place where capital substitutes well for labor. This is particularly true for any efforts in blended or online learning. Technology in education, if the technology is utilized in a way that actually improves learning, requires more time and effort from educators – not less.”

The Uncounted Cost of Spurned Transfer. “If the transfer rules were cleaner, and written more to serve students than to avoid “giving away too many credits,” community colleges would be much more able to innovate. In a climate in which institutional performance is under new scrutiny, I’d like to be able to support exciting new ways to help students succeed. ‘Meta-majors’ are probably the most salient current example.”

Algorithmic decision-making in higher education: There be dragons there… “In the context of the quantification fetish in higher education where we count everything, what are the ethical implications when we reduce the complexity of our students’ lives to single digits, to data points on a distribution chart? What are the ethical implications when we then use these to allocate or withhold support to spend our resources on more ‘worthy’ candidates in the game of educational roulette? What does due process look like in a world of automated decisions (Citron and Pasquale, 2014)?”

Georgia Tech and Udacity MOOC Degree: Missing targets but still worth watching. “Despite missing most enrollment and revenue projections, I still consider this program to be important and worthy of analysis. Whether or not Georgia Tech gets to 10,000 students, it does appear they have significantly expanded their reach in computer science by offering remote students a dramatically cheaper master’s degree in computer science.”

Personalized Learning and the Teacher. “As such, true personalized learning should be labor-friendly in important ways. It should put a premium on skilled educators and make a strong case for increased investment in professional development and teaching-friendly tenure and promotion practices. That doesn’t mean it will always be job-preserving. The focus should be on students and agnostic with respect to student/teacher ratios. It is possible to achieve a more humane and personal education at scale. Sometimes. With a lot of thought and iteration. But I have seen no evidence to suggest that personalized learning technologies improve outcomes significantly without good teachers at the helm, and plenty of evidence suggesting that they don’t.”

Let It Breathe. “In practice, that means my teaching is less busy but more mindful. I assign much less reading than I used to, but I take much more time in class to draw out student questions and even student silences. I have substantially rethought the length, number, and type of assessments I ask students to produce — generally in favor of frequent assignments of shorter, sometimes iterative writing.”

Two Steps Back? “ome accreditation standards, adjuncts say, already protect the rights of those off the tenure track, and college administrators ignore accreditors at their own peril. But a major accreditor is poised to eliminate specific protections for non-tenure-track faculty members from its standards, and some are worried that the body is taking two steps back. The accreditor denies such charges, saying it’s not trying to hurt adjunct faculty members, but rather update its standards to reflect the increasingly diverse faculty role.”

Open Access and Academic Freedom. “Along with the great and undeniable benefits offered to the world of scholarship by the emergence of both OA and Creative Commons licensing, these programs and tools (like all programs and tools) also entail costs and unintended consequences, and have raised some uncomfortable issues. One such issue has to do with academic freedom.”

Clarity for All: Every Written Word Represents Your Brand. “One guiding principle of plain language and compliance material is that you can’t expect people to comply with policies they don’t understand. The University of California’s Office of the President wanted to make their policies and procedures clearer. As a part of the University policy review process, they provided plain language training to staff who would be working on updating and developing policies. Their goal was to write clear policies that avoided jargon and were transparent to both internal and external audiences.

Innovation and Scale. “Anyway, Gladwell’s piece translates nicely into higher ed. It’s about the tension between the freewheeling borderline-anarchy that makes breakthroughs likely, and the rules and clear lines of authority that can bring those breakthroughs to scale. Too much deference to rules, and the moon-shot risks that sometimes pay off can’t happen.  Too little deference to rules, and the moon shots that pay off don’t get taken up, because everyone is doing her own thing.”

Reimagining Online Education. “If online learning is to be more than a pale imitation of the face-to-face experience, educational innovators must rigorously address and radically rethink four key facets of online education: Motivation, learning acquisition, the student experience, and assessment.”

Turning a Page: Downsizing the Campus Book Collections. “All these are part of a mainstream trend in which the printed book, though still part of the academic library ensemble, is being relegated to the role of supporting player rather than the lead actor. … In the face of these changes, academic librarians have no choice but to take action. Their challenge, though, is that there are simply too many print books and not enough on-campus space to store them.”

Online Teaching, It Turns Out, Isn’t Impersonal. “In a playing field where the number of comments from each student is relatively equal, and where external influences on persuasiveness such as physical appearance are eliminated, discussions feel as if they belong to the entire class, not just a small part of it. That more complete sense of community fostered high-quality discussions as probing and vital as those in most face-to-face scenarios.”

Quality and Scalability: Key Drivers to the Success of Open SUNY. “Open SUNY was one of the major initiatives of that strategic plan. We focused on creating a next-level strategy for online learning for SUNY to support the workforce development needs of the state and, in essence, to provide online degree and certificate programs for SUNY audiences primarily in support of some of the high-needs areas for our workforce. There was also an intentional focus on serving particular audiences that either didn’t have a college degree or who had a college degree but were looking for a more advanced credential that would either support their growth in their industry or help them move into a new industry.

Navigating the CBE Frontier: At the Educational Crossroads. “This is the promise of CBE. It starts with the assumption that students are already engaged with their lives, and the best CBE programs, in fact, will build from there. It starts with structural elements that put student learning at the center, focusing on the type of students who now seek higher education rather than who used to. The best CBE programs will design competencies that articulate the skills and abilities needed by productive citizens, and evaluate mastery of those competencies through assessments that blend seamlessly into students work and family.”

Bookstore or College Store: Building a Relationship. “College bookstores are evolving for a future that is based less on textbooks and more on supporting the course material ecosystem, campus services, and merchandise. When it comes to textbook issues, academic librarians and the campus bookstore should work together to give students affordable solutions.”

3 Truths and 5 Recommendations for Online Programs. “None of these truths about online education should dissuade you from moving your programs online. Moving a program online is an opportunity to rethink the program. Any good transition to an online format will involve the work of a team. Pairing a content matter expert with an instructional designer will do wonders for the program. Simple steps, such as starting with the goals of the program and thinking about how those goals can be measured, will yield large gains in the quality of the program. Moving away from ‘covering content’, to an approach that maximizes learning, is the cornerstone of any well-thought out online module, course, or program.”

Downward Spiral on Enrollments. “The several-year decline in enrollment in American colleges and universities continued and arguably intensified this fall, driven by sharp dips in numbers of students at for-profit colleges, full-time students at community colleges and students aged 24 or more, according to new data from the National Student Clearinghouse.”

Time to Take Off Your Disciplinary Blinders. “Nearly 20 years later, Shulman published a seminal article advancing another idea that, it seems to me, builds crucially on the concept of pedagogical content knowledge. “Signature Pedagogies in the Professions” made the case that each discipline — he discusses professional fields like law and medicine in the article, but his concept has since been applied elsewhere — has its own “signature pedagogy.” The body of pedagogical practice in each field reflects its values, goals, and history.”

The Coming Virtual Reality for Education Hype. “So maybe we should spare ourselves the coming edtech VR hype and stipulate a few things: Learning is a relational activity, and if we want to improve learning we should invest in our educators. Foundational courses, along with assessment of foundational mastery, will rapidly move to Internet scale and towards a low-cost model. Higher order skills, such as communication / collaboration / critical thinking / coalition building / leadership, are best learned at human scale.”

Fishing In Our Pond. “I’ve heard anecdotal, but persistent, rumors that some non-elite four-year schools are lowering their admissions standards to maintain their enrollments. From a community college perspective, they’re fishing in our pond. That might explain why enrollments in our sector are dropping faster than demographics suggest they should, while enrollments in the four-years aren’t dropping at all.”

Innovation Networks. “This catalyst role illustrates the evolution of inter-institutional collaboration from a Shared Services Network model toward an Open Innovation Network model. Whereas a Shared Services Network is driven by considerations of efficiency and specialized expertise, an Open Innovation Network is driven by the need to share the ‘risk capital’ ‒ both financial and political ‒ required for continuing experimentation and strategic innovation… “

Listening to Uber. “Rather than attend introductory classes in giant lecture halls, tomorrow’s students will be able to master foundational knowledge (and receive course credit) cheaply and online. This approach will free up resources for mentoring, tutoring and coaching of at-risk students, as resources can be concentrated on those that need the most help. Where all this will end up with is the ability to shorten time to graduation, lowering the costs of an undergraduate degree. … Where the dream of Uber breaks down in higher education is in everything that comes after the acquisition of basic skills and information.”

Preparing Ph.D.s for Diverse Careers. “First, we have to get rid of the false dichotomy that you need one set of skills if you are going into the academy and another set of skills to go into industry, government or the nonprofit world. Being an effective writer, communicator, critical thinker or teacher, along with the ability to work productively in a team setting, is important whether you end up in the classroom or the boardroom.”

More Grads Have ‘Excessive’ Debt. “Kantrowitz finds that the proportion of undergraduate student loan borrowers who are graduating with debt he defines as excessive (having to spend at least 10 percent of their gross monthly income on debt payments) has actually stayed fairly constant over the last two decades, at roughly one in four. That’s the good news. The bad is that the proportion of all graduates who had to borrow to pay for college has risen steadily”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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